Installation view

Spencer Finch »The Enigma of Color«

Berlin , March 19, 2021 - April 24, 2021

In Spencer Finch’s exhibition color acts as a pivot point and trajectory which conjures and crystallizes the bond between outer phenomena and inner movements as well as the physiological aspects of perception and the intimately subjective experience. The new works in watercolor, painting and light are driven by Finch’s desire for exploration and representation, while at the same time confirming color as a magnificent riddle. Due to its elusiveness, interdependence and subjectivity, color remains an unfathomable phenomenon, and this is exactly what becomes palpable in the works as part of its beauty.

On view as a point of departure for the exhibition is a significant work from 2015. "Back to Kanas" takes us on an unusual cinematic journey and invites the viewer to experience at dusk how the 70 color fields of the print fade to gray. The shift begins with the short wavelength blues and ends with longer wavelength reds which are last to disappear. Physiologically this is the moment when the cone cells in the eye’s retina stop being stimulated and the more sensitive rod cells take over. The colors in the print are based on Technicolor scenes from "The Wizard of Oz", representing the colorful life in Oz such as Dorothy’s ruby slippers and the Emerald City, which stands in stark contrast to the black and white monotonous farm life in Kansas. The process of going “Back to Kansas” takes about 35 minutes.

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Like an Op Art painting, the vibrant image of the light box "RGB (Yellow)" challenges our eyes, while filling the whole second room of the gallery in warm yellow light. On a conceptual level the work explores the complexity and paradoxes of color vision and display. The myriads of red, green and blue dots that create the yellow light were chosen in analogy to the workings of the three types of photosensitive cone cells in the retina. Albeit being each primarily susceptible to only one wavelength of light, their combined stimulus makes us perceive a continuum of various hues.

Given Finch’s conceptually grounded practice, it comes as a surprise to encounter a recent triptych of monochrome paintings. Here color is achieved by mixing pigment instead of light. Inspired by a long and deep investigation surrounding color problems, Finch noticed a certain disdain for the color brown in art, which in turn propelled him to explore the color in this work. The paintings are based on combinations of the two hues that Ludwig Wittgenstein's refers to as "impossible colors" bluish-orange, reddish-green, and yellowish-violet. By mixing each combination of colors together, Finch arrives at three hues of a deepness and richness, which we may call for lack of a better term, "brownish".

The fluorescent light installation "Autumn Haiku (sunset through pear tree)" is taking up the idea of Japanese Haikus, consisting of three lines and using the 5/7/5 syllable structure. This Haiku is based on the artist’s observation and a color reading of a sunset through a pear tree in his garden. With 17 colored filters that refer directly to the scene observed — the sky, the tree, the changing color of the leaves, and the warmth of the sunset colors coming through — he re-creates the autumn light. Akin to poetry, where the sound and meaning of a word come together, the work depicts what it enacts.

"Color Notes (Winter)" were inspired by Emily Noyes Vanderpoel’s book on "Color Problems". They catalog various colors from Finch’s daily surroundings, that he over the course of last winter had noticed for their interesting, unexpected or beautiful interplay. Similar to a Haiku, each one translates three hues into a lyrical triad. Altogether the 25 paintings form an abstract record of the artist’s daily life by season. As we learn about the mundane sources of his observations, which are duly noted on each page like "shoe/curb/pumpkin", it is surprising to see where Finch finds beauty.

Spencer Finch is essentially a collector of colors and attests to its autonomy. Not without a sense of humor and wonder, Finch expands the limits of our awareness for the enchanting nature of the close world around us.

Spencer Finch was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1962 and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. His recent solo exhibitions include: Arcadia University, Glenside, PA (2019); The Morgan Library and Museum, New York; Marfa Contemporary, Marfa, TX; Turner Contemporary, Margate (all 2014), Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence (2012), The Art Institute of Chicago; Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst MA (all 2011); Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC and FRAC des Pays de la Loire, Carquefou (both 2010). His survey exhibition “What Time Is It on the Sun?” was on view at MASS MoCA, North Adams 2007-2008. The light installation “Cosmic Latte” is on view at the museum as a long-term installation since 2017.
Finch has participated in the Folkestone Triennial (2011), the 53rd Venice Biennial (2009), the Turin Triennial (2008) and the Whitney Biennial (2004).
In 2018 he realized “Fifteen Stones (Ryoanji)’, a site-specific installation for the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona Pavilion. Other public commissions include: “Orion,” San Francisco International Airport, CA (2020), “A Cloud Index”, Crossrail Paddington Station London; “The Garden in the Brain,” Brown University, Providence, RI (both 2018) “The Western Mystery“, Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle Art Museum; “Lost Man Creek”, MetroTech Commons, New York (both 2017); “Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning“, the only work of art commissioned for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum (2014); the glass facade design for the Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore (2012) and “The River that Flows Both Ways,” High Line Park, New York (2009). This is Spencer Finch’s eighth solo exhibition at Galerie Nordenhake.

Spencer Finch talks about his solo exhibition "The Enigma of Color" at Galerie Nordenhake Berlin, March 19-April 24, 2020, Introduction by Claudia Sorhage.

Autumn Haiku (sunset through pear tree), 2021, fluorescent lights, fixtures and filters, overall dimensions 122 x 40.7 x 5 cm

Autumn Haiku (sunset through pear tree), 2021, fluorescent lights, fixtures and filters, overall dimensions 122 x 40.7 x 5 cm

Color Notes (Winter) 2020, I, 2021, watercolour on paper, overall dimensions 160 x 160 cm

Color Notes (Winter) 2020, I, 2021, detail

Installation view

Back to Kansas, 2015, chine colle on paper, 106.7 x 152.4 cm

Three Brown Paintings (yellow-violet, red-green, orange-blue), 2021, acrylic on birch plywood, each 61 x 61 x 4 cm

Three Brown Paintings (yellow-violet, red-green, orange-blue), 2021, acrylic on birch plywood, each 61 x 61 x 4 cm

Three Brown Paintings (yellow-violet, red-green, orange-blue), 2021, acrylic on birch plywood, each 61 x 61 x 4 cm

Installation view

RGB (Yellow), 2021, LED lightbox and Fujitrans, 81.3 x 81.3 x 10.2 cm

RGB (Yellow), 2021, LED lightbox and Fujitrans, 81.3 x 81.3 x 10.2 cm

Blooming Calendar (my garden), 2020, watercolour on paper, 102.9 x 152.4 cm

Study for three brown paintings (yellow-violet, red-green, orange-blue), 2021, acrylic on paper, 74.7 x 73.5 cm